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Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro releases 39 political prisoners after talks with Opposition leader

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro releases 39 political prisoners after talks with Opposition leader

Dozens of activists in Venezuela who government opponents considered political prisoners were released from jail Friday in what authorities called a gesture aimed at uniting the fractured nation.

"Venezuela's judicial Branch will continue to guarantee citizens' access to justice, due process and respect for human rights", Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno said in a tweet.

In the past two weeks, Maduro has met with a Vatican envoy, a USA senator and key members of the country's opposition, who've long made the release of political prisoners as a central demand in previous but ultimately failed talks with the government.

Delcy Rodriguez, president of the Constituent National Assembly, said this is the first round and promised more prisoner releases.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said earlier Friday that a truth commission was reviewing several cases.

The issue of the prisoners has been a sticking point during reconciliation talks, and opposition leader Laidy Gomez said discussions with Maduro a day prior were focused on ending political persecution.

After a symbolic swearing-in ceremony last month, Maduro appeared to signal a willingness to concede some ground.

According to rights group Foro Penal, there are about 350 political prisoners in Venezuela - a figure the Maduro government disputes.

Some of the detainees have been held in a Caracas underground prison overseen by intelligence police known at the "tomb", consisting of small, windowless, isolation cells where prisoners are subjected to cold temperatures and constant blinding white light. According to the Venezuelan Criminal Forum non-governmental organization, more than 300 political adversaries to the executive power are staying in custody in the republic.

San Cristobal, a city in western Venezuela near the border with Colombia, was a flashpoint in a wave of deadly anti-government protests in 2014.

Some of the prisoners had been punished for protesting against Maduro's government in the last four years. In April of this year, the hearing scheduled at the beginning of his trial was canceled for the 12th time.

Released to go home, Ceballos must report to authorities monthly, can not leave Venezuela and may not talk to the media or comment on social media, according to the court.

Ceballos had posted on Twitter a picture of a group of prisoners that included American Joshua Holt, who was recently released and sent home to the United States. Venezuela had accused him of espionage and stockpiling weapons.

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